Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, will visit France next week to hold talks with President Francois Hollande and senior Cabinet members on the threat posed by violent extremists, presidency sources in Paris said.
“Prince Salman will meet President Hollande on Monday and will be treated to an official dinner at the Elysee presidential palace,” the sources said.
The talks will focus on ways to strengthen bilateral relations, as well as major regional and international issues, including Middle East peace, the security situation in Iraq and Syria and the political and security situation in Lebanon, a Saudi source said.
Prince Salman, who is currently vacationing abroad, is scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Wednesday for talks over the situation in Iraq and Syria, where Islamic State (IS) militants have seized swathes of territory and are threatening regional security.
Saudi-French relations have made remarkable progress during the time of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. Hollande visited the Kingdom in December, when the king conferred on him the King Abdul Aziz Medallion, the country’s highest honor.
On Thursday, Hollande rejected any cooperation with Bashar Assad, whom he accused of being a “de-facto ally” of IS militants, after the Syrian leader’s regime said it was willing to work with the international community to tackle the militants.
Saudi Arabia itself held a meeting of Arab foreign ministers Sunday to discuss the Syrian conflict and the rise of extremism in the region.
Calling Assad an ally of militants, Hollande said: “There is no choice to be made between two (forms of) barbarism.”
“A large alliance is needed, but let’s be clear. Assad is not a partner in the struggle against terrorism,” Hollande said in a speech to an annual conference of French ambassadors.
“Today, we are seeing the consequences (of inaction last year). The (Assad) regime continues its policy of repression without restraint. Refugees are amassing in neighboring countries and terrorist groups are gaining ground…the danger is immense,” Hollande added.

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